Leading charity warn of 'significant cancer crisis' in Scotland

Scotland is at risk of a ‘significant cancer crisis’ with a backlog in diagnosis and treatment, a new briefing from Cancer Research UK warns.

Leading charity warn of 'significant cancer crisis' in Scotland
Leading charity warn of 'significant cancer crisis' in Scotland

The Scottish Government has been urged to produce an urgent strategy to return the provision of cancer care to coronavirus levels as soon as possible, in a safe and effective way, and introduce a clear workforce plan.

Around 2,000 urgent suspected cancer referrals are not happening each week, which means cancer diagnoses may be missed.

Despite national guidelines stating that urgent and essential cancer treatments must continue, Cancer Research UK does not believe this is happening consistently across Scotland.

The briefing for Holyrood’s Cross-Party Group (CPG) on Cancer comes ahead of a virtual cancer summit to be held later this month, organised by co-chairs Anas Sarwar MSP and Miles Briggs MSP.

Health professionals and the Scottish Government are invited to the online event on May 28.

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Cancer Research UK, which provides the secretariat for the CPG, states in its briefing:

“It is paramount that NHS organisations, Scottish Government, healthcare professionals, charities, MSPs and others work together to help address the immediate and near-term challenges we face.

“People affected by cancer now must continue to receive the care they need, in as safe a way as possible, during this crisis.

“Attention must also be given to returning the provision of cancer care to pre-Covid-19 levels as soon as possible, again in a safe and effective way.

“Given the backlog in diagnosis and treatment we are currently seeing, this will require swift and clear action.

“Strong national and local leadership and a clear governance framework are paramount to ensure the return the provision of safe and accessible cancer services.”

A series of recommendations include that the Scottish Government and the health service should ensure all staff and patients in the healthcare system have access to Covid-19 testing on a regular basis.

Anas Sarwar MSP, co-chair of the CPG on Cancer, said: “There is a risk of an unprecedented cancer crisis in Scotland.

“Cancer services were already struggling due to major NHS staff shortages, but the Covid-19 outbreak means referrals are plummeting. The sad reality is many people may die of cancer in the future because they are not receiving early treatment now.”

Miles Briggs MSP, co-chair of the CPG on Cancer, said: “There is significant and increasing concern in the medical and cancer sector at the negative impact the ongoing pause on cancer services and screening will have on patients’ cancer outcomes in Scotland.

“It is now approaching a month since NHS England resumed pre-coronavirus cancer treatment levels; we need to see urgent action to do the same here.

“The Scottish Government must publish a plan to deal with the current backlog of operations and treatments and give everyone access to the healthcare they need before it’s too late.


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